Despite playing Clash Royale a lot in the last year, I’ve stayed away from writing about Clash Royale strategy because I don’t think I’m good enough at the game to write something credible. However, I recently broke through the 4k barrier with a modified version of the classic Hog Trifecta deck with card levels only at 11/9/5/0 (Commons/Rares/Epics/Legendaries). I’ve been beating players with level 12/13 Commons and level 6 Epics so I must be onto something, right? Because of this, I’d like to talk about the Hog Trifecta deck and share why it’s working well for me.
The Cards of the Hog Trifecta Deck
The Trifecta defenders: Valkyrie and Musketeer
The deck, as far as I can tell, got it’s name from a triangular defensive formation: the Valkyrie near the bridge, the Musketeer at the back (usually at the center), and one of your Crown towers.
Both these ladies are quite strong defensively. While the Valkyrie’s attacks aren’t as strong as a Mini P.E.K.K.A.’s or a Lumberjack’s, she makes up for it by having a spinning attack that damages everything around her. She’s not great at killing tanks because of her lower damage, but what she’s really good at is killing whatever troops are supporting your opponent’s tanks.
The Musketeer is your main damage dealer on defense in the Hog Trifecta deck. Only two units have a longer range than her (Princess and Dart Goblin), and she makes up for it by dealing more damage (per attack and per second) and having more health allowing her to survive hits from The Log, Arrows and same level Fireballs. A Musketeer that survives on defense becomes a great second attacker on counter pushes.
The Win Conditions: Hog Rider and Poison
While any surviving defending troop can contribute towards your counterattack, the Hog Trifecta deck gets it’s offense mainly from two cards: the Hog Rider and the Poison spell.
The Hog Rider remains to be a reliable win condition card in Clash Royale. He moves really fast, can leap over the river, and targets only buildings which he hits very hard. Since he ignores troops, all you need to worry about are defensive buildings – if you can get your Hog Rider past these, you’re guaranteed at least one hit on one of your opponent’s Crown Towers.
One big change on how I play this deck now is Poison – I used to primarily play this card on defense to support the Valkyrie and Musketeer when it still had a “slow” effect. It’s current incarnation now deals more damage and has a bigger area of effect than it’s closest counterpart Fireball. Unlike the Fireball, which deals it’s damage at the point of impact, Poison has an 8 second duration and spreads it’s damage across that time period. I use this effect to my advantage by playing Poison together with the Hog Rider – this spell can kill off most of the non-building counters that players use against the Hog Rider (Minions, Minion Horde, Skeleton Army, etc.). Anything that Poison doesn’t kill will have too little health left over to be a threatening enough counter-push.
The Cycle/Utility Cards: Skeletons, Ice Spirit, and Zap
These trio of low cost cards mainly contribute to this deck by having a low cost which allows me to cycle back to cards that I really need, but each of these can be used in many different ways.
When the Skeletons were changed from having four troops to three, I replaced them with the Ice Spirit. I only started to consider them again after SuperCell changed them back to having four troops which is a huge change – that extra Skeleton not only does extra damage, it also serves as another target to kill whenever I play them against single target troops like the Prince and Mini P.E.K.K.A.
Having them in the deck also gives me really good options on defense against Hog Riders, Miners, Royal Giants, and even Graveyard. They can prevent glass cannons like Musketeers and Wizards from getting more than one hit on my towers and helps me save my other units for bigger threats. They’re great companions for my Valkyrie against over-leveled Elite Barbarians and can be played with the Hog Rider for additional tower damage.
The Ice Spirit serves a similar purpose in that it is an additional help on defense. Rather than providing multiple targets, its freezing ability helps preserve my defenses by preventing attacks while allowing my troops/towers to land more hits. They’re also great counters to Minions and combined with Zap, can take out entire Minion Hordes for positive elixir trades.
And despite the multiple nerfs, Zap still remains to be one of my favorite spells. It’s stun ability prevents devastating attacks from Sparky and mitigates damage from Inferno Dragons. With proper timing, it will allow my Crown Towers to deal with Minion Hordes without taking any damage. It kills off Skeleton Armies on and Spear Goblins on offense (common counters to Hog Rider) and if overlevelled, takes out regular Goblins and Minions on it’s own. It can also reset Inferno Towers and can help my Hog Rider survive long enough to land an attack on an opposing tower.
The Defensive Structure: Cannon
Despite not being able to attack flying troops, the Cannon is an integral part of the Hog Trifecta deck due to its low cost. This is your primary defense against troops that only target buildings like the Hog Rider, Royal Giant, Golem, Battle Ram, Balloon, and Lava Hound. It can also replace the Musketeer in your defensive triangle formation if you don’t have her in hand, especially against spawner buildings like Huts or Furnaces. Other Trifecta deck users use the more popular Inferno Tower but I still prefer the Cannon due to it’s lower Elixir cost, allowing me to launch a counter-push earlier.
Why Use the Hog Trifecta Deck?
For starters, the Hog Trifecta deck is very free-to-play friendly, not having any Legendary cards in it. Half of the deck consists of Common cards, and you only need one Epic card to make it work (easily replaceable with Fireball). So this deck is relatively easier to upgrade compared to other decks, which means that you’ll be able to be at par with tournament standard decks in challenges and you’ll be able to advance faster in ladder play.
The Hog Trifecta deck is also quite potent on defense and on offense. While it does have it’s weaknesses (which I’ll talk about later), I’ve managed to pull off wins against most decks. Borrowing from tennis lingo, I see the Hog Trifecta deck as a “counter puncher”, defending against your opponent’s pushes (attacks) then mounting a counterattack of your own. Recently, I’ve discovered that the Hog Trifecta can mount a really strong offense at the start of a match too.
Problems of the Hog Trifecta Deck
One of the most glaring flaws of the Hog Trifecta Deck is it’s weakness against flying troops. Sure, you’ve got Musketeer, Zap, and Ice Spirit, but they’re usually not enough to defend against a well-supported Lava Hound. Decks that use both the Lava Hound and the Balloon combo as a win condition are almost a default loss for me due to this vulnerability.
The Hog Trifecta deck is also a little more challenging to play due to it’s lack of a real win condition, a “combo” or goal that you’re trying to set up. The 2.6 Hog Rider cycle deck, as a comparison, requires that you cycle through your cards as fast as you can in order to keep playing your Hog Rider (or Fireball/Poison) as often as you can, eventually catching your opponent without their Hog Rider counter. Zap Bait decks have the goal of making opponents use up their direct damage spells in order to make them vulnerable to Goblin Barrels. The Hog Trifecta deck requires that you read your opponent’s actions and react to them accordingly. Reading the situation wrong may result in a misplay or two, and in a game that lasts between 3-4 minutes, you don’t have a lot of room for errors.
Related to win conditions – the Hog Trifecta deck isn’t built to get three-crown victories. Instead, the Hog Trifecta deck aims to give you a tower advantage within the first 3 minutes or to be the first one to take a tower in overtime. Running a Hog Trifecta deck will mean that you won’t be the biggest contributor to your clan during Clan Chest days.
Finally, the Hog Rider remains to be a highly sought after card. It’s just a Rare, so it’s easier to upgrade compared to Epics like Golems and Balloon, but a lot of people use it so you might end up not filling up your Hog Rider requests.
I’m nowhere near as good as Clash Royale pros so I’m going to refrain from discussing strategies – if you’d like some strategic insight, it’s best to visit the Clash With Ash Youtube Channel as well as Marcel P’s Youtube Channel for Hog Rider/Hog Trifecta tactics. I do want to talk about some of my favorite techniques that help me get much needed victories:
- I often play an Ice Spirit/Skeletons attack primarily to cycle my cards and get a better hand. This is a two-elixir, low risk low reward move that at worst, can be shut down by a Zap or The Log. This is an even trade but an advantage for me: not only did I free up two card slots in my hand, but I got my opponent to play his/her Zap/Log. Ignored, this mini-attack can get chip damage on your opponent’s tower – a big bonus considering that this play is mainly for cycling your cards.
- Whenever I get the Hog Rider and Poison in my starting hand, I open my matches with a Hog Rider push with Poison hovered around his tower, hoping to bait the opponent to play his Hog Rider counters. If he/she plays an Inferno Tower, I end up getting one elixir advantage. Anything else and I play Poison, which will kill off soft troops and significantly weaken anything that survives. All this while doing decent tower damage through Poison and/or Hog Rider strikes.
- Skeletons make for awesome support in defense. They distract single target troops long enough for my towers and/or Musketeer to pick them off from a distance. They’re a cost-effective added DPS against anything grounded that my main defenses can’t handle on their own – from Royal Giants to Golems to Elite Barbarians. And if my opponent uses their Zap or The Log or even Arrows, that gives me an elixir advantage and cycles through my cards. Essentially, I play Skeletons as often as I can.
I rode the classic Hog Trifecta deck all the way from Arena 6 to Arena 11 as a free-to-play player. Given my current card levels, there’s still a lot of room for upgrades that can potentially move my standing further up. I’m also racking up enough wins in Classic Challenges, getting a decent gold return for my Gem investments. This deck is not as strong as today’s most popular decks, so it’s unlikely for this deck to be negatively impacted by any future balance changes. Given all these, I think the Hog Trifecta deck is a good Clash Royale deck to invest both your time and resources in.